The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no evidence of fault by the Council in the way it responded to safeguarding concerns Ms X raised about Mrs Y. I have seen no evidence which supports Ms X’s claims that the Council behaved inappropriately towards her during its investigations.
- Ms X complains about the way the Council dealt with safeguarding concerns she raised about her mother, Mrs Y.
- Ms X says she was intimidated by a social worker and accused of burglary and of being abusive and violent towards Mrs Y.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the complaint and discussed it with Ms X;
- considered the correspondence between Ms X and the Council, including the Council’s response to the complaint;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the responses;
- considered relevant legislation;
- offered Ms X and the Council an opportunity to comment on a draft of this document.
- Section 42 of the Care Act 2014 (the Act) defines an adult at risk as an adult who:
- has needs for care and support (whether or not the local authority is meeting any of those needs) and;
- is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
- as a result of those needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of, or the experience of abuse or neglect;
- the local authority retains the responsibility for overseeing a safeguarding enquiry and ensuring that any investigation satisfies its duty under section 42 to decide what action (if any) is necessary to help and protect the adult, and to ensure that such action is taken when necessary.
- The Act sets out a clear legal framework for how local authorities and other parts of the system should protect adults at risk of abuse or neglect. It must:
- lead a multi-agency local adult safeguarding system that seeks to prevent abuse and neglect and stop it quickly when it happens;
- make enquiries, or request others to make them, when it thinks an adult with care and support needs may be at risk of abuse or neglect and,
- determine what action may be needed.
- The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and the Care Act work together to promote the empowerment, safety and wellbeing of adults with care and support needs. Section 44 of the MCA prioritises people’s safety by making willful neglect or mistreatment of an adult who lacks capacity to make decisions a criminal offence.
- There is nothing in the Care Act that replaces or undermines the MCA when it comes to making decisions with or on behalf of adults who lack capacity. There are five principles of the Act that need consideration:
- Assume that a person has capacity to make decisions, unless there is evidence otherwise.
- Do all you can to maximize a person’s capacity.
- Unwise or eccentric decisions do not in themselves prove lack of capacity.
- If you are making a decision for or about a person who lacks capacity, act in their best interests.
- Look for the least restrictive option that will meet the need.
- The Council has requested the Ombudsman deal with the information it has supplied during the course of this investigation under section 32(3) of the Local Government Act 1974. Section (32(3) prohibits the disclosure of information obtained during the course of an investigation. This means I unable to share the information with Ms X, or go into any detail in this statement.
- Ms X can be reassured that I have considered all the Council’s records objectively and given careful consideration to the issues she raised.
- Information from the Council shows complex and difficult family dynamics with a history of family members making allegations about each other’s behaviour. There have been previous safeguarding referrals between 2016 and 2019. I intend to investigate matters from July 2019 onwards.
- Mrs Y is in her eighties. She has memory problems and physical health problems. She lives in her own home. Ms X and grandson live with her.
- From July 2019 onwards Ms X raised safeguarding concerns about Mrs Y’s welfare with the Council. She alleged family members were subjecting Mrs Y to:
- financial and emotional abuse
- intentional over medication
- coercive control and controlling behaviour
- exposure to drug use by family members in her home
- Ms X reported her sisters omitted her details when applying for Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs for Mrs Y, and consequently she was not notified about the application. This, along with concerns over the management of Mrs Y’s financial affairs, have been referred to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). The OPG contacted the Council to inform it a referral had been received. I am unable to go into any further detail about this.
- The Council acknowledged each of the safeguarding alerts Ms X raised. All the documents relating to the safeguarding enquiries are subject to section to 32(3) of the Local Government Act 1974 and are therefore confidential. I have considered all the safeguarding documents and I am satisfied the Council followed the correct procedure.
- I have also considered all emails exchanged between Ms X and the Council, and between the Council and other professional bodies. I have also seen minutes of all meetings held. I am satisfied the Council acted without fault.
- It is clear from the information I have seen that Mrs Y has capacity to make decisions about her day-to-day life, who she wishes to live with, and have contact with.
- Mrs Y appointed a solicitor in 2020. I have seen all correspondence between the solicitor and the Council. In September 2020, the solicitor served Ms X with notice to vacate Mrs Y’s home. I have seen a copy of that document. It asks Ms X to vacate Mrs Y’s property within four weeks.
- As part of this investigation the Council provided records of all contact it had with Ms X, including emails, notes of telephone conversations and minutes of all meetings held. I have seen no evidence which supports the claims Ms X makes that officers intimidated her.
- There is no evidence of fault by the Council in the way it dealt with safeguarding referrals Ms X made about Mrs Y’s welfare.
- I have seen no evidence which supports Ms X’s allegation that the Council acted inappropriately towards her during its investigations.
- It is on this basis; the complaint will be closed.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman